“Oh, what couldn’t she do with that tail, Bro!” I was gearing up to tell a tale as tall as the brew, trying to decide which lie to tell first, pulling on the brew to give me time to kick my thoughts together. Ohh, but it’s this stuff that has the kick! “Well . . .” I drawl, or slur. My thoughts seem to be hopping right out of my head and frolicking all over the bar. I manage to grab one thought by the feathered tail, and put all my attention onto animating her.

“Well, so, are you going to tell me about the underground crystal city that your girlfriend fell into?”asked Tomás impatiently. “How many beers is it going to take to pry that out of you?

“Hey, better not let Flimmer hear you call Sevelti my girlfriend. I’ll get that barbed stinger of hers right in my hindside. . . Say, who’s the tall blue chick singing? Her voice slides right into my soul.”

“All right, Miguel, I’ll flip. Two more brews over here, my man.”

But I was rapidly passing beyond the reach of more beer. This babe’s melody just echoed around inside my head, hypnotizing me. My forehead thonked down onto the bar, and there I was looking down at my feet. Phew!!

Wha-a-a?! I saw a little guy down by the foot bar, pinkish, looking up at me with his pig snout face, motioning with his two-fingered little hand for me to look at something down there. I thought I might upchuck on him at any moment. Behind him, opening into the front of the bar, was a little door, maybe a foot high. There couldn’t be a door there, but there it was.

But wait. Maybe it doesn’t have to make sense. Like this is all virtual reality anyway, right? I mean this bar isn’t really here, right? Or is it? I couldn’t remember. I felt awful drunk for virtual beer. Maybe this was more like beer-induced virtual reality, aka D T’s.

Yet it was so real. I could see right through that little door. It was so bright beyond, and it opened out on a whole nother world. There were yellow trees, and boulders, a stream, and something furtive watching.

“Snap out of it!” interrupted Tomas. “I gotta get you outta here. Let’s go. Can you stand up?

“No, bro, look. I gotta go down here and look in this door.”

“You’re babbling. There’s nothing down there. C’mon.”

Tomas was pulling me one way, and there was the little pink pig-man tugging on my pants leg.

“Bro, wait, humor me. Just look down here.”

“Sheeyit! What is that on your pants leg? Whoa!”

So Tomas saw it also. That meant I’m not nuts. We were both down on the floor, me sitting on my can, him on hands and knees. Other bar patrons were oblivious: apparently two guys on the floor was perfectly normal.

Tomas and I were gazing in awe at the world through the little doorway. “Look, down there by the stream.” I pointed. “I’m sure that’s Seveltiruner.” But something in there was watching us as well. It reached out through the door with one scaled claw, grabbing pig-boy in a deathgrip – the claw inflicting a grievous wound – and yanked him back through the door. The door thumped shut and totally disappeared, leaving no trace except a smear of pig-boy’s bright red blood. I grabbed a bar napkin and wiped some of it up.

Tomas was shaking, I was weak. He struggled to his feet and said, “I think we got our nickel’s worth tonight.”

“We’ve got to find that door again,” I said hoarsely. “Sevelti may be in peril!”

“Easy, bro, easy. Remember where we really are. It’s all a computer program. See? There’s the hostess, Carnala. We can go home now.”

We stumbled out the door past Carnala’s knowing grin. “So, then, what about this bloody napkin?” I mumbled mostly to myself.



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